Eric DeCosta on Ravens' draft class

MOBILE, Ala. – The Baltimore Ravens have built an enviable track record in the draft, but their rookie class last season wasn't anywhere close to a home run. It was a depth-building exercise for a veteran-laden team, and there was little in the way of contributions except for massive nose guard Terrence "Mount" Cody, tight end Ed Dickson and wide receiver and kick returner David Reed.

The rookies' season got off to a rough start when second round linebacker Sergio Kindle fractured his skull days before training camp, ending his season and endangering his career due to neurological issues caused by the fall. "They drafted two tight ends, one who played a lot, and Cody came along as the year went along and learned what it took to make the commitment to play at his level," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, one of the most respected draft experts. "Kindle is obviously not there. I'm a Ravens fan. I think Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta do as good a job as anybody in the entire league on the personnel side. I think it's incomplete right now, but I typically really like what the Ravens do."

As far as immediate dividends from their draft class, it was a case of modest returns. Traditionally, the Ravens construct their team through the draft. Nine of Newsome's 16 first-round draft picks have made it to at least one Pro Bowl with those players combining for 46 Pro Bowls. Thirteen were all-rookie selections. The Ravens are banking on this group's best football being ahead of them. "I think they got better as the season went along," said DeCosta, the Ravens' director of player personnel. "I think the biggest thing with us is we drafted some guys who came in and provided some depth behind proven veterans, and a lot of times it's hard for these guys on good teams to play a lot. "We think the world of these guys. We're excited about their future. We think with a big offseason and the experience they have behind him, we expect big things from them next year." Cody overcame arthroscopic knee surgery to repair his lateral meniscus, starting once and playing in 13 games after missing the first three games. The second-round pick from Alabama recorded 13 tackles, forcing a fumble in the playoffs. "I think Terrence Cody is a guy that as the season progressed he got more and more reps and he started to make some big plays and really impacted some things in the running game," DeCosta said. "He's a big, strong, physical guy with a ton of upside. We're very, very excited about him."

Cody forced a fumble in the Ravens' wild-card playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs, separating Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles from the football. The 6-foot-4, 349-pounder got in better shape as the season went on. "Yeah, it was positive," Cody said. "It started off slow and it got better each game. I was playing faster by the end of the season . Hopefully I can start next year if I dominate in offseason and camp. "I just want to learn more about the defense and how they want me to play and little things in general and get in the weight room and get faster and stronger. I started getting in better playing shape and that's important for me."

Dickson caught 11 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown as the third-round draft pick learned behind two-time Pro Bowl tight end Todd Heap. The athletic 6-4, 245-pounder from Oregon also registered a 58-yard reception against the Denver Broncos, leaping over safety Brian Dawkins. "Ed Dickson didn't get a chance to make a ton of plays because of Todd Heap, but when we he did get a chance to make some big plays he did contribute," DeCosta said. "He had a touchdown and some big catches."

Reed led the NFL in kickoff return average, averaging 29.3 yards. That included a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Houston Texans to set a franchise record. The fifth-round pick from Utah didn't catch a pass. He missed the final three games of the season as well as the two playoff games due to a concussion and a torn wrist ligament. "David Reed did a really nice job for us in the return game and on special teams, had the opportunity to make a lot of plays both in coverage and as a returner," DeCosta said. "He did a really nice job before the injury, had some big returns late in the season that really helped us, got our offense kick started and put some points on the board." Kindle hasn't been medically cleared for next season by doctors at Sinai Hospital. He remains hopeful that he'll play football again and coach John Harbaugh indicated that the team plans to retain the former University of Texas star, who can be kept with an exclusive-rights tender.

"We love the player," DeCosta said. "We still think Sergio has a chance to be a good player for us. He's worked extremely hard to come back from the head injury that he suffered. "And that's a wait-and see-thing We just keep our fingers crossed. If we're able to get him back, it will be like a bonus draft pick." Defensive lineman Arthur Jones, a fifth-round draft pick from Syracuse, only played in two games and posted no statistics. The 6-3, 313-pounder had a decent preseason, but couldn't crack a deep defensive line. "He's a guy who gives us a little flexibility to play defensive end in our scheme and also tackle," DeCosta said of Jones, who recorded 145 tackles, 38 ½ for losses and 6 ½ sacks in college. "We've been impressed and intrigued by his ability. He's a guy who practices very well and is a great kid. The one thing he can do is provide a little bit of pass rush. So, we're excited about him moving forward. Offensive tackle Ramon Harewood, a 6-6, 340-pound former Morehouse standout, spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve after undergoing surgery on both knees. The Ravens like his potential because of his size and mobility.

"Well, he's a big man and he flashed in training camp and showed some impressive things," DeCosta said. "This was an opportunity for him to get his knees fixed. We're excited about him as a potential long-term developmental project on the offensive line."

NOTE: The agent for Joe Flacco said that the quarterback didn't have a problem with quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn, who was fired Thursday.

"Joe got along well with Jim Zorn," Joe Linta said in a telephone interview. "Joe knows that whatever decision the organization makes is in the team's best interest."

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